The value of a warm beverage in a survival scenario is nothing to laugh at. What could be dismissed as a luxury is actually a valuable asset. The drink provides you with vital hydration in any climate or situation. In cold weather, the warm drink can bolster you against hypothermia. And if there is a medicinal or nutritional element to the tea, that’s even better. Any survivalist worth his or her salt should be able to identify and brew up these prospective panaceas. Get ready for tea time.
Pine Needle Tea (Pinus spp.)
This tea is a Vitamin C powerhouse. Positively identify pine, chop up a tablespoon of needles, and soak them in scalding hot water for 10 minutes to get 4-5 times your daily requirement of C. Just make sure you skip the loblolly and ponderosa pines, as their needles may be a little toxic, according to recent research. And don’t consume pine needle tea if you are pregnant, as it may cause premature birth.
Mint Tea (Mentha spp.)
There are few better remedies for digestive troubles than a cool glass of mint tea. It can certainly be drunk while hot, but a cool beverage seems to be as soothing as a slug of pink Pepto. It’s good for indigestion, colic, and hangover. Mint is also used in aromatherapy to allegedly improve your concentration and diminish depression. There’s just one problem with this elixir. Pregnant or nursing women aren’t supposed to consume strong, fresh mint food or drink; and anyone with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may find their condition temporarily worsened as the valve at the top of the stomach can be relaxed by menthol (the oily compound in mint).
Black Willow Tea (Salix nigra)
Bark from several species in the willow family, including the black willow, has been used since 400 B.C. to treat inflammation and pain. Black willow bark contains salicin, a predecessor to aspirin. It was once common for people to chew directly on the shaved bark for pain and fever relief, but a better effect is gained through the tea. Steep a tablespoon of twig bark shavings in a cup of water for 15 minutes, and drink until your headache is gone. Not all willows can be used in the same ways, so consult a local plant expert to find out what your local willows can provide.
Slippery Elm Tea (Ulmus rubra)
The bark shavings of twigs from slippery elm can be steeped just like the black willow, but instead of curing a headache, this tea cures a cough. The natural mucilage in the slimy bark will coat and relax your dry cough, and it is much safer than other natural cough remedies (like colt’s foot, which can be toxic to the liver).
If you’re not sure about all this plant eating and foraging, don’t let a few bad plants scare you away from gathering wild foods. Take a respectable field guide with you, and use it. My top recommendation is "Peterson’s Field Guide to Edible Wild Plants." Although it is advertised as an eastern plant book, it works well on the west coast, too. In fact, many of the plants in this book are non-native to America, and are scattered around the globe.
Do you have a favorite wild tea? Tell us about it in the comments. Good luck and safe foraging.